Twenty-one years ago, I flew from Rome to New York as a refugee. Ethiopia was controlled by a military junta that had ties to the Soviet Union. I had been studying in Rome, and when I completed my education, I was afraid to return home to Ethiopia. I had brothers and cousins who had been shot to death in cold blood by the military socialist government.
Pope John Paul II, however, had instructed all the churches to give Ethiopian refugees shelter, food, medical benefits and even bus fare and pocket money. Many Ethiopians who have been sent from Ethiopia to the Soviet Union and to other communist states for indoctrination fled and came to Italy. Churches and congregations provided us with all they could until we were able to immigrate.
I am an orthodox Christian, and two of my roommates in the church where I stayed were Muslims. We were treated like brothers, regardless of our religion.
Leaving my country was difficult for me. After my brothers' deaths, my mother's health deteriorated, and she was afraid that if I returned, I also would be killed. When she heard the news that I would not be returning and that I had been helped by the Catholic Church, she cried but she was also happy that I would be saved.
Later, my mother died and I was unable to go to Ethiopia to attend her funeral. I was in despair, lonely and confused. But God gave me John Paul II and the Catholic Church to comfort and assist me.
Today I am a certified public accountant. Without the pope's assistance and help, I might have ended up homeless or even dead. John Paul II was a hero to me.